The United Nations Security Council on Thursday approved a reduction of peacekeepers in Sudan’s Darfur region after U.S pressure led to a $600m cut in the U.N budget for peace operations.
The reduction could almost halve the number of troops over the next year if conditions are conducive and the government is cooperative.
The council unanimously adopted a resolution drafted by the UK that will cut the number of troops and police serving in the joint African Union-UN mission known as UNAMID by at least 30 percent.
U.N. chief Antonio Guterres and the African Union (AU) had recommended the move to the 15-member Security Council in a report last month. The council unanimously adopted a resolution on Thursday that could also cut police by more than a quarter.
Conflict in Darfur began in 2003 when mainly non-Arab tribes took up arms against Sudan’s Arab-led government. A joint AU/U.N. peacekeeping operation, known as UNAMID, has been on the ground for the past decade.
“UN plans to focus more on development for about 2.7 million displaced people in Darfur as opposed to protecting peace, which they think is no longer needed,” she said.
The United Nations says up to 300,000 people have been killed and millions displaced during the conflict.
Under the U.N. resolution adopted on Thursday, the troop ceiling will be cut to 11,395 from 15,485 in the first six months and the maximum police level would be reduced to 2,888 from 3,403. The council also asked Guterres and the AU to submit an assessment by Jan. 1, 2018.
That report would review implementation of the draw down and impact on protection of civilians and access to aid, cooperation of the Sudanese government with the mission and “whether conditions on the ground remain conducive to further reductions.”
Unless the Security Council decides otherwise, the peacekeeping mission would then cut its number further during the first half of 2018 to 8,735 troops and 2,500 police.